How to read a Bare Act, for beginners.

Bare Act in layman language can be explained as an original copy of words of provisions that were taken or used up by the lawmakers during the enactment of that particular act. Bare Act is the base of law subjects i.e. it is believed to be accurate and dependable by all the people in the legal fraternity. However, even though reading bare acts is the most essential skill any law aspirant or student must possess, this process of reading and understanding bare acts is not taught in most law schools. This is I believe is a very huge mistake because if a lawyer doesn’t know or misinterprets what is the law or that provision wants to convey, he may end up, applying the law in a very disastrous manner which will lead to unjustifiable blunders for his or her client. We all know, that the relationship shared by a lawyer and his client is fiduciary, hence such blunders only because of a simple lack of skill will cause huge harm to the reputation of the legal world.

Hence, I in this Article, have tried my best to explain how a Bare Act can be read and comprehended accurately.

The language of Bare Acts has been deliberately compiled with very hard and incomprehensible words so that the importance and confidentiality of law can be maintained and only those people who are well trained in this field may understand what a particular section or law wants to say.  Given below are a few methods and techniques which can be referred to while reading a Bare Act:

Know the Aim/Purpose of the Act

Every Act or law is enacted following the need or requirement of society at that particular time, hence every act has some motive or purpose behind its enactment. When you begin reading a bare act, the first thing to do is to understand or grab that motive. For this, you must go through the first section of every act which contains the preamble, title, and object of that Act. This section also contains the date and year, when that act came into force. By that, you can get a rough idea of what was the time and what were the requirements of the society because of which this act has been passed.

For instance, the preamble of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 says- “Whereas it is expedient to provide a general Penal Code for India”. This indicates, that at the time of enactment of this act, there was a dire requirement of punishments of crime and their better implementation to form a civil and habitable society. Similarly, the long title of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 is “An Act to define the law relating to the transfer of property by act of parties” which defines the object of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882. Never proceed reading the bare act, before the purpose of that particular act is clear to you. If you are not able to understand it by yourself, do not hesitate to take the help of your teachers, peers, or any other reliable source, but this basic requirement must be fulfilled.

2. Utmost Attention must be paid to the Interpretation Clauses

Interpretation clauses are some terms which are repeatedly used throughout the sections of the act. Hence, lawmakers were very careful to define them at the very beginning of every Act. Taking an example of the Indian Contract Act, 1872. Section 2 of this act explains few very essential terms like- promise, promisor, promisee, contract, agreement, etc. without these terms, the whole act may stand incomprehensible for the reader and the purpose of that act will fail. Therefore, it is very essential to go through these words, before proceeding any further.

In case, you encounter any term which is non-understandable and also is not defined in the interpretation clause of that act, in this situation you can refer to the General Clauses Act, 1891.

3. Use the literal meaning for interpretation

Follow the Principle of Literal Interpretation which says that- the words have to be read and understood in their true literal sense. The reader must keep in mind that the legal terms have their meanings hence they must be understood as it is and not taken up as general meanings. Do not hit and guess. Guessing will deter you from extracting the knowledge which that specific provision is trying to give you.

4. Read the sentences in fragmented form

To decrease the tension generated by a heavy and long sentence, you must break that sentence into different parts and then try to comprehend it. Take care of the commas and colons, they will help you to break the sentences diligently without changing the meaning of that sentence.

5. Be Patient

Understanding the bare act language requires a lot of patience and thorough reading. You must read the words again and again with full concentration. Read it slowly and steadily as it is not a novel that can be read fast.

6. Give Special attention to Magic terms

Terms like, “and”, “or”, “may”, “shall”, “should” etc. hold the power to change the entire meaning of sentences. Hence they must be paid attention to and should not be taken casually while reading.

7. Refer to Standard Textbooks

For a better and clear understanding, do not hesitate to take the help of standard books. As the words used by the authors in those books are comparatively much easier than the bare act. Also, there is n number of illustrations and examples given in these books which make it very convenient to understand. You can write in the bare act itself a few meanings and important points to remember. But always use a pencil in the bare act, as it can be erased but the ink can spread and fumble the words of provisions, which I don’t think is a very great idea.

8. No offense in using Diglot

Many people get confused about choosing bare acts, that they should buy the English version or the diglot one. I think bare acts especially the crime or punishment related bare acts must be read in diglot version so that if you are unable to get the meaning of any specific word while reading the bare act, you can refer to the other side of the page and resolve the issue then and there. So, above were few tips to read bare acts accurately and effectively. Being a law student the concept of bare acts must be familiar to you because that keeps the basic brick of foundation!

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